Yes, it's official. The next expansion for World of Warcraft will finally allow players to interact with the fun-loving Pandaren in Mists of Pandaria.
Blizzard gave the official reveal during Blizzcon today, and not too long afterwards gave a lengthy rundown of what players can expect from the fourth expansion for the long-running MMO title. Yes, there is a lot of stuff here. Good luck trying to contain your excitement for all of this. I know I found it difficult.
For starters, we got the Pandaren race itself. An oft requested race, players will finally be able to create their own martial arts furball. The best part is that they will be the first official neutral race in the game. Once your little panda gets to level ten, you have the option to choose the faction you want to side with, either Horde or Alliance. They still have their own starting area (which is on top of a giant freaking turtle in the middle of the ocean), and have access to all classes but Druid, Paladin, Warlock, and Death Knight. Yep, they will be the only race that cannot have access to Arthas' dark army, largely because they obviously weren't around at the time.
The racial abilities, like those of every other race, showcase the personality and lore behind them, particularly their love for food and martial arts background. Epicurean is a passive trait that increase the stat boost gained from food by a whopping 100%. Gourmand is the obligatory crafting passive, giving a +15 boost to cooking. Inner Peace focuses on the laid back nature of the race, allowing for rested exp to last for twice as long as normal. Bouncy, meanwhile, takes their fluffy appearance into a slightly silly area, providing 50% less falling damage. Their useable ability is Quaking Palm, a special martial arts technique that hits a pressure point on the opponent, putting them to sleep for three seconds. This obviously has crowd control implications, or can simply be used to create an escape option.
With the Pandaren comes a new class, the Monk. The main thing that needs to be cleared up right away is that this in not a hero class like the Death Knight is. It will be a regular class that starts at level one, and very little, if any, starting perks. They will have three specs like everyone else. Brewmaster is the tanking spec, Mistweaver is a melee healing spec, and Windwalker is melee DPS. The unique part of this class is that there is no auto attack function. Instead, you use abilities like Jab and Roll, both of which use Chi (energy), to build light or dark force, which is then used for finishers. A leather wearing class, they primarily have access to fist and staff weapons, though they have other options as well. I'm expecting a Fist of the North Star parody video very soon once the expansion comes out. All races except the Worgen and Goblins will be able to become Monks.
Of course, players will have full access to the new continet of Pandaria, home of the Pandaren. Players will be going back to a unified continent for questing, and this new area will have all the usual amemnities, including a entral quest hub. A couple of new quirks, however, will make things work a bit differently than before. For example, flying mounts will be inaccessible until you hit level cap. The goal here is to get players to explore more of the new continent and encounter more of the various enemies, rather than allowing players to cheat their way around the various dangers by flying over them. A more positive perk, however, is the ability to acces your bank and the Auction House while on the island of Pandaria, saving you a trip back to the main city for the same thing.
There are also a multitude of new baddies to work through, and with no emphasis on a single core enemy like Illidan or Deathwing this time, players will have more variety in the threats they will encounter. The Mantid, a cunning and intelligent insectoid-like race, and the Mogu, a powerful lion-faced race with the strength of ogres, are the primary antagonistic races, and will appear in dungeons and raids to combat would be intruders. Another enemy force, called the Sha, makes up the third enemy faction, and is unique in that it is created by the negative energy exuded by the battles between the Alliance and the Horde. Players will be tasked with "cleansing" areas that the Sha have taken over.
Of course, with a new expansion, comes a lot of changes to the way things work. Talents, for example, are getting a complete facelift, while borrowing some of the things the development team picked up during Cataclysm. At level ten, you'll still be required to pick your spec, and get your appropriate ability, however, you also have two other kinds of moves at your disposal, class and talent. Talent abilities are your unique traits, and are being redone in tiers instead of being in separate trees. It's a bit tricky to explain, but essentially, every 15 levels, you'll have access to one specific talent ability from a choice of three. For example, Rogues have to choose between Killing Spree, Vendetta, and Shadow Dance at level 90, and while any spec can use any of the three abilities, you're limited to choosing from one of them. The intent is to create more diveristy in builds, eliminate cookie-cutter builds, and cut down on the rabid elitisicm that has been a thorn in many players sides. In other words, they want building your ideal spec to be fun, not work.
And who here hasn't played Pokemon at some point in their life? Blizzard will be implementing their own take on the phenomenon with the Pet Battle system. Players will be able to go out in the world, collect, and battle their pets against each other. Level them against creatures in the wild, or against other players. Customize them with items, names that you give them, and abilities, Pit your core hound against your opponents baby raptor, and see who is the Poke- I mean, Pet Battle master.
There is obviously so much new stuff, it's new impossible to cover everything in this single post alone. Level cap is getting upped to 90, new PvP modes are being added, classic dungeons Scholomance and Scarlet Monastary are getting heroic versions, and so much more. Blizzard is looking to rectify all of the problems that came up with Cataclysm, while capitalizing on the aspects that made it successful, to create a new, accessible experience that players of all walks of life can enjoy, from the casual to the hardcore. Keep an eye on GameGeex the entire weekend for more Blizzcon info.